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A group of people allegedly involved in widespread petty theft
A group of people allegedly involved in widespread petty theft at the Sea Festival pose for a police photo along with stolen items at the Koh Kong Provincal Police Station on Sunday. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Dozens arrested at Sea Fest

Nineteen suspected thieves were arrested during the annual Sea Festival held this year in Koh Kong town, police have said.

The suspects travelled together in two SUVs from Phnom Penh to target the festival-goers, Sam Kitviet, Koh Kong police chief, said yesterday.

“The 19 thieves were arrested between [Friday and Sunday] and some of them were caught red-handed stealing visitors’ property,” he said.

Two groups had travelled separately from the capital, but it was not immediately clear if they were organised by the same ringleader.

“One group of four rode in a white Lexus 370, while the other 15 travelled in a white [truck].

“Police have recovered a lot of evidence, including stolen hand bags, wallets, mobile phones and hundreds of dollars,” Kitviet said.

First held two years ago in Sihanoukville, the Sea Festival has become a major attraction for tourists and watersports enthusiasts.

About 20,000 people are thought to have visited Koh Kong on the opening day of the festival, according to the Ministry of Tourism, which estimates some 150,000 people may have visited the province over the course of the three-day event.

As with other major festivals in Cambodia, petty crime has been a problem since the event’s inception.

Police deployed 1,000 officers to safeguard the streets during this year’s spectacle.

“With cooperation from the Ministry of Interior and General Commissariat of the National Police, there were more than 1,000 police involved in this campaign,” Kitviet said.

“At first, some of the suspects tried to bribe police in exchange for their release,” he added.

“But our police did not do that and questioned them, leading us to track down their accomplices.”

Another four suspected thieves were arrested prior to the start of the festival, according to police.

All of the suspects caught in the round up will be sent to the provincial court “as soon as possible”, Kitviet said.

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